Judge rules against Iranian family hoping to enroll daughter in pricey school year in Coquitlam

A federal judge has ruled against an Iranian family wishing to have their daughter attend the Coquitlam School District for a year after her student permit was rejected in early 2022.

The parents paid $16,500 to School District 43 in tuition fees in January 2022 to enroll their seven-year-old daughter in Grade 2 in Coquitlam. The mother also applied for temporary residency to accompany the girl in Canada.

In the family’s statement of purpose for pursuing studies in Canada, they stated they wanted to provide the girl an opportunity to study English and French through a French-immersion program, and chose Coquitlam because of the large Farsi-speaking Iranian community.

An immigration officer denied both applications due to suspicion they would not leave Canada at the end of the year.

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Combined with the cost of living, studying for one year in Coquitlam would cost the family approximately $60,000.

The immigration officer noted that bank statements provided showed the expense would consume almost half the total cash savings of the family.

The family claimed to have $2.4 million in real estate assets in Iran but no professional appraisals were provided.

The visa officer’s refusal letter in March stated the “purpose of the visit itself does not appear to be reasonable” due to the family’s economic situation, and similar programs closer to Iran that could be afforded for a fraction of the cost.

The family applied for a judicial review of the officer’s decision, taking issue with the immigration officer’s rationale, claiming illogical connections were made, “exuding an air of suspicion.”

Since their statement of purpose was doubted by the officer, the family submits they should have been provided a chance to be interviewed, and claimed a lack of procedural fairness.

In their memorandum to the judge, the family’s counsel wrote that studying in Canada would provide the girl “strong employment prospects” in Iran upon returning.

Upon review, the judge sided with the decision of the immigration officer on Dec. 19, 2022, noting that overturning the decision would require evidence of serious shortcomings in their analysis.

He stated the girl’s mother holds a bachelor’s degree in English and is already teaching her daughter the language, negating the need to have them come to Canada.

The judge also stated that he found it dubious to claim that attending Grade 2 in Canada would have any future benefits for a seven-year old’s career. 

“How Applicant’s counsel can write about the career path of a 7-year-old girl and her strong employment prospects upon completion of her program, comes as somewhat of a surprise,” the judge wrote.

“Given (her) age, the cost of travel to Iran for visits with her father, the cost of living in Canada and the future costs of her education, the (officer’s) conclusion passes the test of reasonableness.”

Over 1,000 international students are attending public school in the Coquitlam School District this year following the easing of foreign travel restrictions. Most are high school students, and less than 10 percent attend elementary schools.

International recruiters for the Coquitlam School District target countries all around the world, drawing most heavily from Asian markets.

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